Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Adventures in Odyssey Meets Smallville

"Anne Rice, call your office." Har!!

"Fox Developing ‘Nazareth’, a Show about Jesus’ Early Life" (Relevant Magazine):
Fox is joining the list of networks creating new original programming centered on the life of Christ. The network has announced that they are developing a new series which will focus on the early life of Jesus. Nazareth will reportedly examine the years between ages 13 and 30, which are not referenced often in the Gospels. Following the massive success of The Bible miniseries, Lifetime, NBC and The History Channel also have new Jesus-centered shows in the works.

Why Fox did not name their show Boy Saves World is anyone's guess ...
First comment in: "Cause that what we need -- heartthrob, teenage Jesus." (Maria-Virginia Deliz)


[Hat tip to JM]

"Liturgical counter-revolution: the 'hushed' case of Fr. Calmel"

Cristiana De Magistris, "LITURGICAL COUNTER-REVOLUTION: The “hushed” case of Fr. Calmel" (ConcilioVaticanoSecondo.it, February 17, 2014) offers an intriguing look at what appears today as though it might have been an historical anomoaly: a Domnican resistance fighter against the liturgical reforms under Pope Paul VI. For the research record [Advisory: Rules 7-9]:
Dominican religious and Thomist theologian of great importance, director of souls, esteemed and sought throughout the whole of France, Catholic writer of a convincing logic and unambiguous clarity, Fr. Roger-Thomas Calmel (1914-1975) in the difficult years of the Council and the post-council period, was characterized by his counter-revolutionary action, through his preaching, writings and above all by his example, both on a doctrinal as well as a liturgical level.

But on a particular point the resistance of this son of St. Dominic reached heroism: the Holy Mass. The Catholic Faith is founded upon the Mass because it is in the Mass that our Redemption was wrought by Christ upon Calvary and this is perpetuated in the holy Sacrifice offered day after day.

1969 was the fateful year of the liturgical revolution, prepared for at length and finally imposed with authority upon a people who neither asked for nor desired it.

The birth of the new Mass was not peaceful. Against the hymns of victory of the novatores, there were the voices of those who did not want to trample upon the past––of almost two millennia––of a Mass which dated back to the apostolic tradition. This opposition was sustained by two Cardinals of the Curia (Ottaviani and Bacci), but remained completely unheeded.

The date upon which the new Ordo Missae became effective was fixed for 30th November, the first Sunday of Advent, and the opposition was not going to be placated. Paul VI himself, in two general audiences (19th and 26th November 1969), intervened, presenting the new rite of the Mass as the will of the Council and as a help to Christian piety.

Prodigalization: unpopular minority report on entrenched theological assumptions

Another provocative missive from our undercover correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep it's secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye:
Two items, related in that they both suggest counterpoints to common theological assumptions.
  1. First one you likely already saw, in which a charismatic papal preacher, no less, attempts to implode firmly entrenched "Everybody knows" and Vatican II mantras that reign unchecked ...
    Christopher Blosser, Cessario on Cajetan and the Communio School (Against the Grain, April 1, 2014).

    [People] should make up their own minds about de Lubac [...] and not assume that one eminent French Jesuit and 100,000 Communio followers can’t be wrong.

    Great line!
  2. Then there is this, in which a blogger comes across a century old Princetonian theologian pointing out that one parable a summa does not make, or we wouldn't have four gospels not to mention an entire New Testament. The thought Warfield proposes in this digression has got to be a contender for Ideas Running Most Rudely Counter to the Reigning Homiletical Zeitgeist, don't you think? It would be perceived as about as outrageous as not being on board with National Health Care, or someone suggesting that episode with Ananias and Sapphira might ever by anyone be taken seriously. LOL.
    Doing a little study this afternoon, I came across this illuminating section from B. B. Warfield on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the danger of make it a definitive statement of the gospel. Given the parable's present popularity as a sort of quintessential gospel declaration and its presentation as a governing paradigm for our understanding, it is worth pondering. It is also noteworthy for containing, in the second paragraph, the sort of truly tortuous sentence of perfectly correct English that caused Churchill to scribble this note on a civil service paper: "This is the sort of writing up with which I will not put!"
    Indeed, we may even say that the universal admiration the parable commands has finished by becoming in some quarters a little excessive. The message which the parable brings us is certainly a great one. To lost sinners like you and me, assuredly few messages could appeal with more overwhelming force. Our hearts are wrung within us as we are made to realize that our Father in heaven will receive our wandering souls back with the joy with which this father in the parable received back his errant son. But it is an exaggeration to represent this message as all the Gospel, or even as the core of the Gospel; and to speak of this parable therefore, as it has become widely common to speak of it, as "the Gospel in the Gospel," or even as the summation of the Gospel. It is not that. There are many truths which it has no power to teach us that are essential to the integrity of the Gospel: nay, the very heart of the Gospel is not in it. And, therefore, precious as this parable is to us, and priceless as is its message, there are many other passages of Scripture more precious still, because their message enters more deeply into the substance of the Gospel. Take this passage for example: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have ever lasting life." Or this passage: "God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with Him and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus." Or even this short passage: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." All these are more precious passages than the parable of the lost son, not merely because they tell us more fully what is contained in the Gospel, but because they uncover to us, as it does not, what lies at the heart of the Gospel.

    It is important that we should recognize this. For the exaggerated estimate which has been put upon this parable has borne bitter fruit in the world. Beginning with an effort to read into it all the Gospel, or at least the essence of the Gospel, it has ended by reading out of the Gospel all that is not in the parable. And thus this parable, the vehicle of a priceless message, has been transformed into the instrument of a great wrong. The worst things are often the corruption of the best: and the attempt to make the parable of the lost son the norm of the Gospel has resulted, I will not say merely in the curtailment of the Gospel, - I will say rather in the evisceration of the Gospel. On this platform there take their stand today a growing multitude the entire tendency and effect of all of whose efforts it is to eliminate from Christianity all that gives it value in the world, all that makes it that religion which has saved the world, and to reduce it to the level of a merely natural religion. "The Christianity of the prodigal son is enough for us," they declare: and they declare this with gusto because, to put it briefly, they do not like the Christianity of the Bible or the Christianity of Christ, and are happy not to find them in the parable of the lost son. [emphasis added]
[Hat tip to JM]

1970s prelates and parishioners come into their own

Apparently the generation has come into its own now. The Bauhaus generation. The lava lamp generation. The glory and praise generation. The polyester generation.

It reminds me a little of an inner city evangelical service I once attended in Grand Rapids in the early 1970s. The complexion of the congregation, despite a scattering of blacks, was predominantly white. Middle class. I remember feeling uncomfortable as a white man in his late thirties wearing a business suit accompanied a praise band with a tambourine. Or trying to -- flopping it against his leg more or less in time with the rhythm of the music, but awkwardly. Very awkwardly. He was decidedly non-hip. The whole thing was decidedly non-hip. But by golly they were surely trying to be hip.

Now people aren't as sweaty-palmed about trying to be hip in this way, but this sort of ethos -- the laid-back "hip" thing with praise bands and high-fiving priests -- is matter of course in many parishes I've seen. Altars are off-center, "presidential chairs" angled in curious ways, naves replaced by spacious horizontal spaces that no longer shepherd the eye to front-and-center, but invite one to chill out and relax. Have a nice day. So nice. Like waiting for a lounge show to begin.

In a slightly related vein, a correspondent of ours wrote to tell me this:
I read the coverage over at Whispers in the Loggia on the celebration of the weekend. Interesting, and parts were inspiring.

I think we are simply witnessing the gradually ascendency of Vatican II's effect now that the Old Guard is disappearing and an entire generation of Catholics weened on Vatican II is taking the reigns. Like every other precinct of society, things are simply far more man-centered and far more concerned with the goodness and joy of this life. For better or worse. Old emphases are not outright denied, just countered by newer emphases that pretty much suffocate them. The Papacy used to be viewed as the office of the Vicar of Christ, where "the Pope" was not so much a personality as an office. No more:
the joint ratification that John XXIII and John Paul II now live in the Father's House doesn't merely validate the verdict of the sensus fidelium on the holiness of their lives: it represents the ultimate recognition of their respective roles as the twin architects of the modern papacy – a munus in which a man's personality doesn't vanish at the moment he donned the white, but one that would see the Petrine charism amplified across the globe by its respective holder's gifts, talents and areas of concern...
Likewise Holiness used to be very much God's precinct, something we might experience or arrive at via his grace in some measure, but which only a few exuded in a manner that distinguished them as saints. Again, not so now. Holiness will now be common DNA.
Vatican II's powerful reminder that, in the Church, holiness is not the unique province or privilege of neither the papacy nor the ordained presbyterate, but of the shared priesthood which, through Baptism, is the life and mission of all the People of God...
Ideas of religion as demanding, God as other, narrow ways and dark nights ... These won't be jettisoned, but they also won't be referenced except in terms of litigations over government over-reaches that really touch no one very directly. Even as affluence reigns, these will be the things construed as persecution, and even as churches close, we will be instructed about a New Springtime. I was surprised to see Whispers post the two TIME magazine covers of the Popes as Men of the Year. Even my Protestant brother, not anti-Catholic really, when I exclaimed over JPII making the cover of the one years ago, said something to the effect of, "I would think he'd wish they hand't put him on it." And that spirit, one of wariness to the world along with a gratitude for its good gifts, is the one that seems altogether lacking no matter what lip service is given to it. Catholicism has always by association been the religion of blood and the crucifix, of The Last Things, rites, priests and reconciliation. Now those things are rolled into a very Protestant-sounding refrain of helping others, and an explicit and intense concern that people have education and jobs but an almost non-concern for whether or not they articulate any interest in organized religion. Francis' observed that "In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led ... This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit." Seems like an entirely progressive sort of eulogy.
The correspondent apologized for what he called his "repetition" and "constant laments," saying that he found all this "rather depressing."

Well, it just all depends, doesn't it. I wonder how God sees all these events of mice and men.

[Hat tip to GN]

Evangelization can only possibly work if ...

  • if the members of the Church recognise the need to do it
  • if they are confident in doing it
  • if they know what message needs to be communicated
  • if there is no confusion about the message
  • if we have a leadership that actually practices it (rather than merely talks about it)
Thus says Fr. Ray Blake in "A Few Thoughts on Evangelisation" (April 10, 2014): Read more >>

[Hat tip to JM]

Tolkien on ... SEX???

"From Father to Son — J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex" (AlbertMohler.com, March 11, 2014). Excerpts:
In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.

“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ‘going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ‘hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgement of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the 20th century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism of human progress, the 20th century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.

“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then 21, that the sexual fantasies of the 20th century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.

[Hat tip to JM]

Monday, April 28, 2014

For the record: Dale Price has been wincing so often his face must hurt

Over at Dyspeptic Mutterings, the widely-read Dale Price is beginning to show signs that the cognitive dissonance is taking its toll. On March 12th, there was this: "This one caught my eye."
And not in a good way.

A little while ago, Walter Cardinal Kasper argued in favor of giving communion to those Catholics who remarried after a divorce without getting an annulment.

Put as politely as possible, Cardinal Kasper's proposals leave an empty, sham notion of marital indissolubility on the sacramental books while effectively gutting it.

Put more directly: they are casuistic bullshit.

Which makes it a little surprising that the Pope was so delighted with them, given his stance on such forms of reasoning.

Be that as it may, make no mistake--they are a frontal assault on the Catholic claim to indefectibility.

Should they become Catholic practice, I don't see how I could in good conscience remain a Catholic. Just felt like getting it out there, given my prolonged periods of radio silence. Prayer is at the top of my list of priorities.

It's going to be a long, worrisome summer. I hope and pray to God something approximating good sense starts exorcising the Return of the Spirit of '76.
Then on March 19th, there was this: "The last post on Catholicism."

From me, for the foreseeable future.

I'm tired. Really, really tired. Tired of arguing, tired of getting invocations of authority, tired of the lack of basic Christian brotherhood (mea maxima culpa from me, so please accept my apologies), tired of sounding and feeling like this guy.

The literal Hell of it, of course, is that I might be wrong. If so, it won't be the last time. In this case, though, the stakes are so astronomically-high.

What my essential problem with this papacy is the repeated message I'm receiving, which is:

"You overdid. Yes, it says that on paper, but..." Most recently:
"All of this depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do. Also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.”
Wore the ol' tux to a beach party, eh?

Believe me, I understand people who struggle with it. I'm one of them, every month. But you can drive a pastoral truck through that paper, can't you? Older brother-ish? Yeah, probably. But is the teaching morally-obligatory or just morally-praiseworthy? It's still there on paper, but..."that train left the station long ago," as Bishop Lynch shrugs?

Ditto the proposals to offer communion to the civilly-remarried...which are more than a mere discipline to be dispensed at will, as another smart man has noted. The possibilities from such a change are boundless, as some not-so-faithful have noted. If the Church can soft-pedal the words of Christ, especially as consistently understood by the Fathers, then "all things are lawful." At some point, lax discipline hollows-out doctrine, and no invocations of authority can patch that over.

If the sacramental teaching is correct, the discipline follows. If the discipline doesn't follow, what does that say about the correctness of the teaching?

Anyway, I'm arguing again and I'm tired of arguing. Spiritually-dessicated tired.


The nicest thing anyone did recently was offer to pray for me and have a mass said. She doesn't agree with my concerns, but that was actually the great part about it.

So, that's it. I have a wife and kids to love and provide for, an honorable job to do and a septillion books to read and almost as many board games to play. I'm even teaching the older three D&D.

Your prayers would be more than welcome.
Pray for Dale, yes, but not because everyone else knows so much better how things really are or ought to be. Please. Pray also for the Holy Father and for the good of the Church. I doubt that Dale's the only one who has felt a twinge of cognitive dissonance.

"Pope Francis: Put-down artist"?

You may remember our review of "Pope Francis' Little Book of Insults" (Musings, December 14, 2013) with a sampling of quotable insults (follow the link to the source article for more).

Well, now New Oxford Review has come out with an editorial piece entitled "Pope Francis: Put-Down Artist?" (New Oxford Notes, April 2014). Delightful:

From the moment Jorge Mario Bergoglio stepped out onto the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and asked the world to “pray for me,” a persistent theme has resounded in the mainstream media. Pope Francis, as the popular narrative would have it, has singlehandedly set a “new tone” for the Church after decades, if not centuries — or millennia! — of crankiness and stagnation. Consider these headlines:
  • “Francis’ humility and emphasis on the poor strike a new tone at the Vatican” (New York Times, May 25, 2013)
  • “Pope Francis changes the Church’s tone on gays and women” (The Examiner, July 30, 2013)
  • “Pope Francis’ focus on mercy sets new tone for Roman Catholic Church” (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 29, 2013)
  • “Pope softening tone, not stance, O’Malley says” (Boston Globe, Feb. 9, 2014)
Astute Catholics know that Francis’s emphasis on the poor and the need for mercy is nothing new — these are perennial Christian themes. But it seems that this is the first time the modern media has made note of a pontiff hitting on these points. And it’s led to a severe case of journalistic “diarrhea of the pen.”

On Stephen Colbert replacing David Letterman

Billy Hallowell has an interesting piece, "Did You Know That Stephen Colbert Is a Devout Catholic Whose Childhood Was Impacted by a Very Traumatic Event?" (The Blaze, April 11, 2014), which, among other interesting bits, has this clip of Stephen Colbert being interviewed about his Christian Faith, God, Hell on NPR:

Guy Noir - Private Eye comments:
Arresting bit of news it is that Colbert is taking Letterman's place. I was always a fan of Carson, but not so much of Letterman, since I prefer my humor without much malice and my irony lite. Colbert is a bit sunnier, though I would nit-pick that he strikes me as a Fr. John Courtney Murray Catholic. A few years ago the Post reported on his effort along with John Stewart:
"Stewart named his march the "Rally to Restore Sanity" and called for everybody to come to Washington to show the 15 percent of America that drives the conversation that the rest of the country can get along. "A Million Moderate March ... a clarion call for rationality," Stewart called it. Colbert, who often takes the role of bombastic conservative host to Stewart's exasperated liberal, announced that he will sponsor a "March to Keep Fear Alive."
Funny thing, though, is that one of Fr. John Murray's big fans was actually Frank Sheed. I think of the following lines written by Frank Sheed's son, ones I imagine almost anyone in Hollywood who professes faith might identify with. And I also wonder: what would Sheed or Murray make of Colbert or Stewart -- or even, for that matter, the current incarnation of America magazine, the latter which both gentlemen can fairly be said to have inadvertently helped create...
Frank and Maisie were much too civilized to use social occasions to convert people. Yet they lived in —dread is too strong aword—mild apprehension that something silly would be said at a mixed gathering which would require a Catholic answer. Frank believed (and in this Maisie was a rubber stamp) that Catholics live in the real world and the rest don’t and that this has implications far beyond the religious. So every conversation was a mine field. And the danger faced both ways. Outsiders might admire Sheed/Ward from afar, but if they got too close to it or went too deep, they would have had to find it insane (as they would Dorothy Day or Mother Teresa). Those crazy claims must be symbolic, aren’t they? Virgin births? Resurrections? No, I’m afraid they’re not. If Rome was the true Church, and there was no if about it, Catholics were right and the others wrong, except insofar as they agreed with Catholics. Discussion is difficult on these terms. Wilfrid Sheed, Frand and Maisie: A Memoir with Parents, XX.
It will be interesting to witness how the culture at large warms to Colbert. He seems nice and sincere and, yes, Catholic! But I also wonder, in today's increasingly acerbic-to-fatih climate, how far can someone really get without soft-peddling faith. That is an honest question, not an accusation.
[Hat tip to JM]

Noah: proof that God prefers a faithful remnant to impressive numbers

Boniface, "God is not impressed by numbers" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, March 15, 2014).

[Hat tip to JM]

The sacred ecstasy of music ... and a cold beer

I have often found myself enraptured by the ecstatic character of the performer. Any of us who have played in an orchestra or sung in a choir knows of what I speak. There is the moment before one begins, the slight pause at the moment the conductor lifts his hands, when there is no longer a moment to clear one's throat or scratch the itch. Then it begins. One is launched into this strange divine sea of music in a river of time that will carry one through till the final moment of closure.

And amidst that strange divine sea of music, one projects himself outside of himself. He is besides himself. Ecstatic -- literally: "standing outside" -- in that medium of music. Vocal chords give voice to song, woodwind reeds reverberate with strings of violin, viola, base and cello, timpani, brassy trumpets and haunting French horns sound -- all creating something unimaginably larger and more wonderful than anything each could produce on its own.

But even as the soloists step forward and launch into their virtuoso performances, faces sometimes contorting, and eyes not quite really looking at anything, one realizes, when it is being done well, that there is something happening here that is so beautifully intimate that it is nearly indecent to look upon it. It is a ecstasy of the human spirit, expressed bodily, which reaches to touch something sublime, that form of beauty the ancients sometimes numbered among the "transcendentals."

Time. Eternity. Immutable essence. Ecstatic movement. Body. Soul. Spirit. All converge in this brief suspended moment of time we call "the performance." Our hearts are stirred.

Then we go home, open the fridge, pop open cold one, and sit down to watch the evening news.

Pergolesi: Stabat mater, for soprano & alto | Damien Guillon

Damien Guillon, who sings the alto/contratenor part, has one of the most remarkably beautiful male voices for the upper registers that I have ever heard. A bit surreal. (Here is an interview with the French singer.)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fr. Z: October Synod Focus of Pope's coronation sermon

That, and the canonization of the Second Vatican Council.


The Moderns

I received a telegram recently from our undercover correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, and here's what he had to say:
Years ago there was an art film called "The Moderns."

Sometimes I think we are living an extended version of such a film.


Are Newman, Loisy, Sheed, Barron, Rob Bell, Andy Stanley, David Gibson, Justin Welby, Pope Francis and Don Draper Somehow All Related in Modernity's funky family tree (beyond the much ballyhooed common brotherhood of man)? [I obviously tried to have some fun with this grid....]


An interesting argument. Unfortunately, I also feel (word choice intentional) that we might apply it in certain ways to even good men like Barron, Pope Francis, and many talented typing monkeys around the Catholic blogosphere as well. I suppose one might argue that Newman, with his emphasis on the whole man, contributed to to this strain early on, as well as the energetic Frank Sheed with his ceaseless pre-sixties ad man sensibilities. You already know I have essentially nothing but high regard for Newman and Sheed, so I am not trying to cast stones as much as identify and navigate ripples. As with almost everything, something good, even a good impulse, is easily amplified into a distortion or an abuse abuse. It is the curse of the fallen world. See the attached where Wilfrid Sheed judges Frank Sheed's undoubtedly unintended influence on one...

Which is why normally one could be so grateful for the very conservative attitudes of the Church. Or why at least one once could appreciate them.
Andy Stanley's approach seems to be suggestive of where we are headed: Like Robert Hughes, people will easily progress quickly beyond modest progressive instincts. Witness gay marriages move from absurd to absurd to argue against in a matter of ten years.

Tridentine Masses Coming this Week in the Metro Detroit Area

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Extraordinary Community News

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (April 27, 2014):
Plenary Indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday

Holy Mother Church has designated Low Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter, as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is one of a handful of days in the liturgical year which are enriched with a Plenary Indulgence. The faithful who take part in public devotions in honor of Divine Mercy in a church on this Sunday are granted a Plenary Indulgence, under the usual conditions of reception of Holy Communion, Confession within 20 days, prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions, and freedom from attachment to sin.

Book Review: A Modern Guide to Indulgences

This is therefore an appropriate day to mention an informative book written by Dr. Edward Peters [pictured right], Professor of Latin and Canon Law at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary: A Modern Guide to Indulgences: Rediscovering This Often Misinterpreted Teaching provides a comprehensive overview of the theology and current norms for gaining these graces bestowed from the treasury of the Church.

Published in 2008, the book has two main parts, the first being an explanation of the history and doctrine of Indulgences, and the second being a listing of the prayers and acts that gain Indulgences. The book resolves many but not all of the questions raised by the official books on the subject: The Vatican’s Enchirídion Indulgentiárum, available in English as The Manual of Indulgences. Those original, invaluable books provide not only the letter of the law, but also the texts of the currently indulgenced prayers and works. Yet the official books raise many questions and seem incomplete.

In a relatively brief 107 pages, Dr. Peters strives to answer some of the questions the faithful may have after reading the official publications. For example, he clarifies that if a particular Plenary Indulgence requires prayer of the Our Father, the Our Father must be prayed a second time to count as a prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions. Not all FAQs are answered clearly, however: For example, Peters does not make it clear whether one can gain an Indulgence for a specific soul in Purgatory, or if it must be directed to the Poor Souls in general, letting God decide which soul will benefit.

It is important to stress that A Modern Guide to Indulgences is not a substitute for the official books. It does not contain the texts of the Indulgenced prayers, for example. Rather, it is a companion work, meant to enhance the understanding of the faithful. In this role it has no peer and is thus recommended to those wishing to learn more about this great gift of the Church.

Crisis Magazine Article: Saving Catholic Culture from Destruction

An article dated April 3, 2014 on the web site of Crisis Magazine, www.crisismagazine.com, begins with the tantalizing opening line, “What kind of mindset built all the immigrant Catholic parishes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Americas?”

The article, entitled “Saving Catholic Culture from Destruction”, makes a cogent argument for the preservation of historic Catholic churches. Focusing on a group of the faithful intent on saving the now-closed St. Ann Church in Buffalo, New York, the writer cautions against “the replacement of a spiritual battle mentality with a corporate management mentality”. Perhaps it’s more efficient and cost-saving to build less ornate churches in a modern idiom, but such edifices fail to express the fullness of the Catholic faith as clearly as the traditional designs. Grand Gothic and Romanesque churches engage the senses and communicate the Faith in a way that mere words cannot. Indeed, such a timeless “multimedia” expression of Catholicism should certainly qualify as part of the New Evangelization.

Of course, the preservation of inspiring historic churches is not simply a matter of will. It’s also a matter of money and willingness to work. Locally, we have the vivid example of St. Albertus Church, sold in 1990 by the Archdiocese of Detroit to a group of the faithful who labor with amazing zeal to maintain this awe-inspiring but gargantuan structure. The volunteer effort involved is staggering, rivaled only by similar efforts at the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Alphonsus Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.

One commenter suggests as a commendable example the still-unexecuted plan put forth by Mary Our Queen Parish in the Archdiocese of Atlanta: The pastor is trying to raise funds to purchase, disassemble, and move the shuttered, Roman basilica-style St. Gerard Church from Buffalo, New York, down to Georgia to serve as the new parish church. Impressive thinking, perhaps, but one out-of-the-box idea cannot compare to the dedication of our ancestors, who scrimped and saved from their meager incomes to contribute toward the building of so many magnificent Catholic churches from approximately 1870-1955.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 04/28 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. Paul of the Cross, Confessor)
  • Tue. 04/29 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (St. Peter of Verona, Martyr)
  • Fri. 05/02 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Sacred Heart of Jesus) – First Friday
  • Sun. 05/04 9:45 AM: High Mass at Academy of the Sacred Heart Chapel, Bloomfield Hills (Second Sunday After Easter) – Debut of new weekly Sunday Mass site. Confessions will be heard before Mass, beginning around 9:00 AM. Reception after Mass.
[Comments? Please e-mail tridnews@detroitlatinmass.org. Previous columns are available at http://www.detroitlatinmass.org. This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit) and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for April 27, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Milbank's de Lubacian reading of Aquinas as interpretive dance

Christopher Blosser, in "Mulcahy on Milbank" (Against the Grain, April 1, 2014), writes: "I particularly appreciate Mulcahy's Aquinas's Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henry de Lubac for its demonstration of how De Lubac's criticism of pure nature has, carried to its logical conclusions, culminated in the "integralist revolution" of John Milbank, leading proponent of Radical Orthodoxy."

After an extensive treatment of Radical Orthodoxy, its relation to de Lubac, and the aestheticism of Milbank ("Once the attractiveness of the divine beauty is experienced, no other arguments or evidence need be considered"), Christopher turns to Radical Orthodoxy's use of de Lubac's account of Thomism, writing: "The impression is clearly given that for Mulcahy -- and I would imagine for most anybody who adheres to prevailing norms of academic scholarship, rational discourse and validation -- the very act of reading Milbank is itself a recipe for exasperation." Consider, he says, the following:
The word "interpretation" must be emphasised and explained when it comes to Milbank’s treatment of Aquinas. As one who rejects "accepted secular standards of scientific truth or normative rationality" and denies that truth is a correspondence between the intellect and extra-mental reality, Milbank insists that "the point [of theology] is not to represent ... externality, but just to join in its occurrence; not to know, but to intervene, originate." Accordingly, his recourse to Aquinas is not a work of exegesis, but a project of creative expression: “exegesis is easy; it is interpretation that is difficult, and Aquinas, more than most thinkers, requires interpretation." This explains why Milbank holds that, even if the actual text of St Thomas "appear[s] incontrovertibly to refute my reading," that reading itself should not be subjected to conventional scholarly critique. ...

This ostensibly post-modern approach to sources has predictably occasioned intense criticism. Informed scholars have described Radical Orthodoxy’s interpretations as "gnostic idealism," "blithely imprecise, ideologically driven historical revisionism," "free-floating, self-perpetuating insularity", "opaque [sentences] drifting [in] conceptual murkiness", "sophistical legerdemain," "blatant misreading ... that ignores the ordinary canons of scholarly enquiry," and "[not] just wrong, [but] laughable, though not amusing." Milbank’s vague and sometimes even inaccurate footnotes do not help his cause.

In Milbank’s defence, one can say only that RO had disclaimed the canons of scholarly objectivity and verifiable accuracy right from the beginning. Radical Orthodoxy sets itself to challenge all settled theological opinion, and pretends no dialogical relationship with other views or types of rationality. When considering Milbank’s interpretation of St Thomas, the best approach, one might suggest, is to recognise it as something akin to an interpretive dance. It displays an inherently subjective approach, and, in effect, purports to be nothing else. Scholarship of an objective kind must be sought elsewhere.
[Hat tip to C.B.]

"Ecumenism in a Time of Cancer"

Casey Chalk, "Ecumenism in a Time of Cancer" (Called to Communion, December 23, 2013).

For the record: Verrecchio vs. Keating on Lefebvre

Louie Verrecchio, "Karl Keating: Fiction Novelist" (Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II, March 8, 2014).

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ha! Evangelicals give Catholic school leadership a run for their money!

"Charles Murray: An open letter to the students of Azusa Pacific University" (American Enterprise Institute, April 22, 2014):
I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.”

You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right? Okay, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources. Explore for yourself the “full range” of my scholarship and find out what it is that I’ve written or said that would hurt your faculty or students of color. It’s not hard. In fact, you can do it without moving from your chair if you’re in front of your computer.

... Try to find anything under my name that is not written in that spirit. Try to find even a paragraph that is written in anger, takes a cheap shot, or attacks women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, or anyone else.

... Azusa Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share. Ask if this is why you’re getting a college education.
By the looks of this, pretty soon people will be demonized for saying anything substantial about anything.

[Hat tip to JM]

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron on how John Paul II and John XXIII modeled heroic virtue

As we recently noted, Professor Roberto de Mattei has pointed out that when the Church canonizes one of the faithful, "it is not that she wants to assure us that the deceased is in heaven," but to "proposes them as a model of heroic virtue."

Fr. Robert Barron, in "Two Saintly Popes: How John Paul II and John XXIII Modeled Virtue" (Catholic World Report, April 23, 2014), undertakes to describe the heroic virtues for which these two Blessed Popes are being "raised to the altars" this weekend. He writes:
No one with the slightest amount of historical sensibility would doubt that these men were figures of enormous significance and truly global impact. But being a world historical personage is not the same as being a saint; otherwise neither Therese of Lisieux, nor John Vianney, nor Benedict Joseph Labre would be saints. So what is it that made these two men worthy particularly of canonization, of being “raised to the altars” throughout the Catholic world?

Happily, the Church provides rather clear and objective criteria for answering this question. A saint is someone who lived a life of “heroic virtue” on earth and who is now living the fullness of God’s life in heaven.
Read more >> Trust me: it's interesting.

Muddled thinking about sex and open societies

Our clandestine correspondent whom we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, has been busy catching up with us after our Lenten hiatus. I share with you his ruminations about the public debate about same-sex issues, because the Church is deeply involved in the outcome of this debate and I think Mr. Noir gets a lot of things right here; or, at least, asks many of the right sorts of deeply perceptive questions. He writes:
Elizabeth Scalia has a long piece with which I agreed, until I got to the very, very end. She concludes with a link to which she appends, "Can I get a 'duh'?"

[The linked article is Cathy Young's "Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both" (Real Clear Politics, April 22, 1014).]

My reaction is, "Can I get a 'Are You Kidding Me?'".

There is a disconnect somewhere, either in me or in these signatories. Perhaps I am wrong or don't get it: the list of brains is intimidating.

And yet, If this is where we indeed are, then I really don't see how any of these signers are saying anything different than: "Just give these folks (Christians) some time." But how does that work, since to be consistent with the thinking presented here, we would have to say the Civil Rights legislation was wrong and facist/totalitarian in its forcing of people to act no matter what they personally believed. And I don't imagine they would agree with that.

If "the best and most free society is one that allows the largest number to live true to their core beliefs and identities," then they gay rights lobby is essentially correct, and all the noise about civility IS bluster. I really do see why our opponents can be so convincing. Once we allow morality to become personal preference, there simply is no basis on which to build unity. If are core commitment is to enabling "the largest number to live true to their core beliefs and identities," then we have no basis on which to oppose gay marriage.

I fear the Church's desire to convince itself as well as others that its God and its Gospel are very much in sync with the modern ideas of what is attractive will box it into a conceptual hall of mirrors. One thinks of Cardinal George Pell dismissing the idea of Adam and Eve without at all realizing he could not but help also thus be applying poison to the root idea of original sin. Consistency in theology isn't just desirable. When you are facing off ideological assaults, it is also quite necessary. I wonder if the Bishops will clue in to this before they acquiesce. Here's hoping.

The Devil, acedia, the amice, and capacity for battle (beautiful!)

"So many good lines in here, as well as much I will have to read when I have more leisure because it is at a glance over my head. But prose strokes like these completely blot out, in one pass, at least sixty percent of what now passes for serious discussion." So writes Guy Noir after reading the following excerpt from Alessandro Gnocchi's "Traces of the Hegelian Guillotine in the Liturgical Reform" (RC, April 23, 2014) [added emphasis below is mine - PP]:

The agony of Padre Pio and of his stigmatized flesh, the ecstasy of Saint Philip Neri who sunk his teeth into the chalice to drink avidly his whole Lord, the visions of Saint John Chrysostom who witnessed the descent of a lightening bolt on the altar, and also all the Masses down to those of the most unworthy priest who might have had only a bit of faith in the miracle of transubstantiation have always been, at the same time, the heart and fruit of the battle against the Prince of this world. “Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam salutis, ad expugnandos diabolicos incursus”. Place on my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation so that I may conquer the assaults of the devil”. So prays the priest when, preparing for the celebration of Mass, he puts on the amice, another vestment that recalls the battle and the sacrifice, fallen into disuse in the reformed Mass. Today, in the post-Conciliar Church, one speaks to speak, one dialogues to have a dialogue, to have an amiable conversation with the world, all made drunk by the illusory and seductive power of chattering. There is no need any longer for a vestment like the amice that, in addition to symbolizing the helmet of the warrior, symbolizes also the “castigatio vocis”, or “discipline of the voice”, and banishes from the act of religion every word that is not part of ritual and, therefore, inexorably, too many. The capacity for ritual has been lost, and, therefore, the aptitude for command has been lost ....

The idea of giving orders and of battle, of arms and the armature of the spirit, have been dismissed by the Christians who love to be rocked in the cradle of acedia, the most perverse of the capital sins. That deadly snare that the Church Fathers called akidia or acedia, is transmitted from believer to believer until it infects the whole Church body. This is the source of a “sickness of being”, a “heresy of form” that foreshadows errors in ways of thinking and acting that are quite diverse and even contradict each other, painfully grimacing at the virile and warlike principle of non-contradiction. Having succumbed to the sickness of acedia, the Church has ended up seeing herself and presenting herself as a problem instead of a solution to the deepest ill of man. When she speaks of the world she lets show forth her awareness of her incapacity to point to a way of salvation, as if she is excusing herself for having done so for so many centuries. She has doubts about fundamental and ascetical principles themselves, and, at the very time she proclaims that she is opening up to the world, she declares herself to be incapable of knowing it, defining it, and, therefore, incapable of educating and converting it....

Does 'Evolution' disprove Adam & Eve?

"The Parent Flap: Darwinists Argue That Adam & Eve Have Been Disproven. Molecular Geneticist Ann Gauger Does Not Agree" (Salvo, Fall, 2013).

[Hat tip to JM]

For the record: Fr. Peter Carota

In case you missed it, here's a wonderful article by Mary O'Regan, Fr Peter Carota: like Britain's Fr Thwaites, he will have a profound influence on the Catholic world (The Path Less Taken, January 23, 2013).

Another dissenting opinion on the canonizations

Our undercover correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, just sent us the link to the following article, with this commentary:
Uh oh! I am recommending an article in The Remnant. Yikes. But as a recovering Calvinist, the references to the permissive versus active will of God do warm the heart. Besides, this makes sense. Woodward's "Making Saints" played a role in my conversion, so I guess I have a reflexively protective reaction to all the miracle-waiving.

Somehow it reminds me of Reagan. The conservatives loved it when he used TV and imaging to score a home run. But later the chickens came home to roost with Clinton and Obama's telegenic prowess. Likewise, it was all good for JPII to waive a miracle since he was a conservative's favorite who came of age in Communist Poland. But now that Francis is following suit, some are thinking, errr, not so much.
"The Fast-tracked Canonization: A Lamentable Lack of Prudence," written by Father Celatus (The Remnant, April 23, 2014):
Critics have complained that Pope Pius XII did nothing to help victims of Nazi atrocities; critics have complained that Pope John Paul II did nothing to help victims of clergy abuse. The irony is that the Vatican shows more sensitivity to Jewish concerns than it does to the victims of its own clergy.

"Treadmill non-apology"

Marvin Olasky of World magazine reviews Francis Spufford's Unapologetic (HarperOne, 2013), which
... shows a British writer’s recognition that belief in Christ makes the greatest emotional sense not for the “young, buff, and available” but for the aging woman with a demented husband, or the boy in the wheelchair with “spasming corkscrew limbs,” or the drug-addicted woman with “a rat’s nest of dreadlocks” who will soon be losing her child.

Spufford sees Christianity as the religion that acknowledges the hard things and finds grounds for hope in spite of them. He acknowledges that coming to Christ is not primarily an intellectual assent to propositions but a matter of feelings: “I assent to the ideas because I have the feelings; I don’t have the feelings because I’ve assented to the ideas.”

Spufford also stresses, as did Walker Percy, the way we often distract ourselves with stuff, until at a certain point “you’re lying in the bath and you noticed that you’re 39 and the way you’re living bears scarcely any resemblance to what you think you’ve always wanted; yet you got here by choice, by a long series of choices for things which, at any one moment, temporarily outbid the things you say you wanted most.”

The churches he looks for are those that tell the truth, “the authentic bad news about myself, [but] in a perspective which is so different from the tight focus of my desperation that it is good news in itself; I have been shown that though I may see myself in the grim optics of sorrow and self-dislike, I am being seen all the while, if I can bring myself to believe it, with a generosity wider than oceans.” Amen.
Olasky also reviews Baylor professor Rodney Stark’s The Triumph of Christianity, which, he says, was WORLD’s 2012 book of the year:
Stark was a journalist before entering the academic world, and his clear writing shows it. He skewers classicists who mourn ancient Rome’s downfall, and calls the fall of Rome “the most beneficial event in the rise of Western civilization, precisely because it unleashed so many substantial and progressive changes. … Disunity enabled extensive, small-scale social experimentation and unleashed creative competition among hundreds of independent political units.”

In a chapter entitled “The blessings of disunity,” Stark goes on to show that the Dark Ages weren’t dark, the Vikings and the Crusades have gotten a bad rap, the medieval church fought slavery, the Middle Ages witnessed global warming and then global cooling, and the Black Death contributed to the end of serfdom.

And more debunking: Native Americans did not have a reverence for the earth, the European settlement of the Americas was not a brutal act of genocide, Spain following the Age of Exploration never declined because it never truly rose, Islam never had a golden age and was not tolerant, Christianity was not hostile to science, and European nations did not profit from colonialism.
You gotta love this stuff!

[Hat tip to JM]

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why are these canonizations being fast-tracked?

Is it "extreme" of me to ask that? While I never met Blessed John XXIII and don't know too much about him beyond the little I've read, Blessed John Paul II is the Pope under whom I was received into the Church, the only Pope with whom I've actually exchanged a handshake, and I have every reason to have loved and appreciated His Holiness during his earthly life and to appreciate him still. Here are some of the positive things being said in the mainstream media about the pending canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II:

Yet I have also scratched my head a bit over what seems a rather precipitous and fevered rush to canonize these two popes. My reservation has nothing to do with doubting the Church's authority to canonize them, doubting their presence in heaven, or thinking ill of these soon-to-be sainted popes who were in their earthly lives undoubtedly sinners just as we all are. (Indeed, we know that among the saints whose veneration the Church approves there were many that were never formally canonized at all, but are nevertheless recognized as saints by the Church.) Rather, in much the way that Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman questioned the timing of Vatican I's declaration of papal infallibility (without in any way questioning the declaration itself), I think there are those who wonder whether there are not reasons for finding the timing of these particular canonizations a trifle imprudent.

Secular and Jewish critics have complained that Pope Pius XII didn't do enough to help the Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust (though I think there's ample evidence to confute that silly conceit), and the Church has slowed down his case and continued to defer it despite very good reasons for promoting it. Critics have likewise complained that Blessed John Paul II did not do enough to help the victims of clerical sexual abuse, as in his alleged passivity if not complicity in the case of the founders of the Legionaries, Maciel Marcial (though I think there is good evidence against his knowing complicity), but administrators of his cause have not let these concerns deter them.

Other concerns have been raised as well. Professor Roberto de Mattei, for example, whose credentials are above dispute, suggests that when the Church canonizes one of the faithful, "it is not that she wants to assure us that the deceased is in the glory of Heaven," but rather that "She proposes them as a model of heroic virtue." The person proposed for canonization therefore might be an exemplary religious, pastor, father of a family, etc. In the case of a Pope, it is assumed that he must have exercised heroic virtue in performing his mission as Pontiff, as was for example, the case for Saint Pius V or Saint Pius X. That sounds like the bar is being set pretty high -- enough, at least, to give some pause in the present matter.

Now it is true that Mattei also goes on to offer reasons why he believes that the pontificate of John XXIII was "objectively harmful to the Church," which goes well beyond my competence to assay, although I have to wonder whether his analysis of the question of infallible judgments in the case of matters not directly pertaining to the doctrinal content of faith and morals does not touch on some significant considerations.

Finally, there is also this video during Holy Week by Michael Matt, which, in the final analysis, I think cannot be simply shrugged off as silly traddy nonsense. I think he is right that Blessed John Paul II would probably agree that his own canonization should not be fast-tracked, but time ought to be taken to set aside all grave doubts -- not only for the sake of the critics, but for the sake of the Church and the candidate for canonization himself. The consequences of not doing so, as he points out, could include providing substantial fodder for the enemies of the Church.

So put me down as an obedient son of the Church who will always happily submit to Mother Church, but a son who is a trifle less than enthusiastic about the timing of these canonizations. What can I say? Maybe it can be chalked up to having Blessed Cardinal Newman as my patron ... well, perhaps. (As I said at the outset, he was less than enthusiastic about the timing of Vatican I's declaration of papal infallibility.) In the end, these opinions aren't going to make any difference to what happens on Divine Mercy Sunday; but I'm grateful for a Church that allows for the expression of concerns by the laity, whatever they may be worth, and whoever may turn a deaf ear.

“The splendid absurdity of the coming event can be grasped when we recognize that John XXIII and John Paul II would both have been condemned for their ideas and their words had they expressed them when Pius IX was in power.”

Commonweal (August 11, 2000), two weeks before Pope John Paul II’s double beatification of Popes Pius IX and John XXIII

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dan Schutte's "Glory to God" and My Little Pony

Jeff Ostrowski, "Why Can't We Use Secular Music During Mass?" (Views from the Choir Loft, February 13, 2014), includes this remarkably telling comparison:There is also this fine video discussion entitled, "Can you tell the difference??" (Corpus Christi Watershed).

Happy ~ birthday ~ dear ~ EARTH ~ !!

A day late, after the Google graphic, as our undercover correspondent (Guy Noir, PI) points out, this would probably give both NPR and the Vatican Press Office hives, which some might enjoy for that reason alone!

Kevin DeYoung, "Building a Better Earth Day" (TGC, April 22, 2014).

I remember meeting the self-described founder of Earth Day, John McConnell (I believe that was his name) while working in a Swiss hotel 1972-1973 back during my student years. He gave me an "earth flag," and a card with some "earth prayers" on it that struck me was very syncretistic (I would now call it "New Age-y"). He was a kindly old fellow, but his ideas felt soft and mushy, like the stuff of lava lamps and bean bag cushions and hump necklaces with peace sign pendants -- though, to his credit, I can attest that he offered me no weed.

The case for Pacelli's canonization

Adfero argues a case for the canonization of Pacelli (RC, April 22, 2014), noting that the case for beatification was launched by Pope Paul VI and that a very strong case can be made from a standpoint of sheer numbers alone:
For those who say we are now living in the greatest age of the Church, let us consider the numbers below, just for the dioceses of the United States during the reign of Pius XII [Eugenio Pacelli]. They are remarkable, to say the least -- if the canonization of a Pope also takes into consideration the appraisal of his pontificate (other than his personal holiness and his prophetical wisdom, both of which are irreproachable regarding Pope Pacelli), then these surely deserve observation:

Adfredo concludes:
While all these numbers may make one yearn for the Church of old, a few of them are truly staggering for the modern mind to comprehend in today's Catholic-lite world: a 200+% increase in American converts; a nearly 250% increase in seminaries built; a 200+% increase in seminarians; and a 50% increase in priests. All of this happened over Pius XII's glorious 19-year-reign.

While we do not question the canonization of a saint, we can say, looking at these numbers, that there is a strong case to be made that the lineup on April 27 is short one great man.
Related: Rita Ferrone, "Room at the Font: Is the RCIA Still Working?" (Commonweal, April 22, 2014):
From 2005 to 2010 adult baptisms fell by 41 percent. Those losses were masked by a gain in adult receptions into full communion; then those totals began to fall too.

USA Today throws wet blanket on canonizations

Brett M. Decker, "Pope puts Catholic rebirth at risk: Column" (USA Today, April 21, 2014):
... Few moves could so quickly undo [Pope Francis's] popular efforts to make the Roman Catholic Church more sensitive to the values of modern churchgoers.

Francis has concentrated much of his 13-month papacy on making symbolic gestures....

The impact of the Argentine pontiff raising two popes to sainthood after their failures to address the globe-spanning clergy sex abuse scandal would be far more than symbolic. The scandal damaged thousands of innocent lives and cost the church billions of dollars in legal damages as well as its moral standing.

John XXIII, pope from 1958 to 1963, and John Paul II, pope from 1978 to 2005, both held their positions after the widespread abuse, stretching back deep into the 20th century, was known to the Vatican....

... Outside of those who were martyred, the Catholic Church traditionally has found few pontiffs worthy to be saints. In fact, only two have been canonized in the past 700 years.

There is a good reason for this. The church teaches that a priest is responsible for every soul in his parish, a bishop for each person in his diocese and the pope for the whole world. The bar is set purposely high because the duties of being vicar of Christ are so immense....

The Catholic Church declares individuals to be saints to give the faithful role models of heroic virtue and show how one should live life to get to heaven. Because of their sins of omission in face of horrors at the hands of their clergy, neither John Paul II nor John XXIII should be canonized as exemplars of sanctity.
But that's Brett Decker of USA Today. What would he know?

[Hat tip to K.J.W.]

"Marriage is between a man and a woman": the elephant in the room

Arguing against the lie of gay sex by insisting that "marriage is between a man and a woman" is like arguing against rape by saying "I think consensual sex best honors God." -- Guy Noir

First Anniversary: For the record: after another papal interview, another Holy See Press Office clarification (RC, March 11, 2014)

Our underground correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye, writes:
... what I think is missing is this fact. No one is arguing that civil unions should be equated with marriage. At least no Pope. They are simply saying we need to authenticate this alternative arrangement as a lesser state, etc. That is the wrinkle: "Marriage is between a man and a woman." Like THIS is holding the line! Still no real mention of the problem of gay sex by itself. It is kind of like it is regarded as a well-intentioned miscue. The problem with gay marriage is not a technicality, which is how Rome phrases it. It is, rather, that it is based on a lie. Gay sex is that lie. But to propose that would offend the gay community, so it cannot be spoken. We retreat to "I still believe marriage is between a man and a woman." It is like arguing against rape by saying, "I think consensual sex best honors God"!

Once we have to stoop to define marriage, we have already lost the argument. Gays can adopt. Gays can love. Gays can be good parents. Mr. Moms can work. Functionality is not the primary problem. But the primary problem is one that to mention makes us rude or Neanderthal ...."
Related: Fr. Brian W. Harrison, "Satan is right now shaking the Church to her very foundations over this divorce issue." (Letter to the Editor, Inside the Vatican magazine, February 2014).

Fr. Gregory Baum & the "manualists"

An excellent article by Joseph Clifford Fenton, "The Teaching of the Theological Manuals" (CatholicCulture.org, March 13, 2014), showing how Fr. Gregory Baum completely misconstrued the significance of the teaching of the manuals with his assertion in Commonweal 77 (Jan. 18, 1963), p. 436:
The conflict at the Council is not at all between men who try to introduce new insights and modern ways and those who seek to remain faithful to the great tradition of the past. It is rather between those who seek to renew the life of the Church by returning to the most authentic Catholic tradition of all ages and those who seek to consecrate as eternal Catholic wisdom the theology of the manuals of the turn of the century and the anti-modernist emphasis which penetrated them.

The Pope and the CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard

This is the title of a book some years ago by Andreas Widmer, the Swiss Guard in question. Stanley Kurtz, in "Party for 'The Pope and the CEO'” (The Corner, October 14, 2011), gives an account:
The other day I attended a party launching The Pope and the CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard, by Andreas Widmer. Most book parties are chit-chat, with little said about the actual occasion for celebration. This was different. Widmer, a towering and charismatic presence, answered questions about his book from a delighted audience for nearly an hour. His stories of John Paul II’s impact on his life were fascinating and inspiring.

Widmer was raised in a thoroughly secular atmosphere in Switzerland. (Yes, the Swiss Guard is really Swiss.) Soon after he joined up, Widmer pulled Christmas Eve duty as the innermost of the Pope’s many layers of protection. This very tall and physically tough young soldier away from home for the first time during Christmas was quietly weeping with homesickness just outside the Pope’s personal chamber that night. Widmer’s job was to make sure the Pope’s quarters stayed securely locked till John Paul was ready to exit them; in other words, to be sure the Pope stayed locked in.

Amazingly, it never crossed Widmer’s mind that the honor of serving as John Paul’s inner-guard might be the most extraordinary, devout, and memorable way he could possibly have spent his first Christmas away from home. That’s how irreligious Widmer was. The Swiss guard has always been made up of mercenaries. There is no test of devotion, so somewhere around half the guard consists of Euro-secularists. But more than a few times, what happened to Widmer happens to secular members of the Guard.

When Widmer finally unlocked the door and allowed the Pope to exit his Chamber–with the soldier all the while struggling to hide his homesick tears–the conversion experience began. How the Pope responded to his guardian that night was the beginning of Widmer’s new life.

There’s a lot in this book about John Paul II the man, observed close up. But The Pope and the CEO also includes Widmer’s later struggles as a businessman who went from success and wealth to financial disaster, and back again, all the while learning how to integrate and reconcile faith and everyday life–”the crucifix and the BlackBerry”–as Mary Eberstadt puts it in her very positive NR review of the book (subscriber only). If Widmer’s enthralling performance at a stand-out book party is any indication, you’re going to like his work.
[Hat tip to JM]

"Archbishop Welby fails to hold Love of God and Holiness of Life together in Gay Dithering"

COMMENTARY by David W. Virtue (VirtueOnline, April 21, 2014):
Perhaps the ALPHA course didn’t teach the connection deeply enough or preferred to dodge the issue altogether.

Whatever, the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a fundamental error that could cost him the Anglican Communion. In preaching up God’s love for absolutely everybody and giving a pass to same-sex civil partnerships (while repudiating gay marriage), he has publicly divorced God’s love from God’s holiness and His demands on our everyday lives.

By giving a pass to same sex marriage, Archbishop Welby has fallen for the psychological and therapeutic rather than the moral and divine.

As Dr. David Wells in his new book God in the Whirlwind notes, “It is impossible to think of the love of God apart from his holiness.” While love and holiness are not the same thing, he observes, we see the world today through therapeutic categories rather than moral categories. “In twentieth-century liberalism, then, we ended up with love that was separated from divine holiness. Love and holiness belong together and work together: Love is characteristic of every aspect of God’s being as well as every action that issues from it.

“Love and holiness belong together and work together: Love is characteristic of every aspect of God’s being as well as every action that issues from it.”

Is it any wonder then that Bishop Gene Robinson and his “Love free or Die” movie is all about his need for full inclusion and acceptance? His concept of “love” is not agape but Eros. It is devoid of any talk of holiness. His narcissism, driven by the need for the church to accept who he perceives himself to be, has so corrupted Western imperial Anglicanism that a realignment is underway that will not be stopped.

[Hat tip to JM]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saint: Why I Should be Canonized Right Away

I saw a short clip by Lino Rulli somewhere recently, and it wasn't half bad. Very funny, good-natured guy with some substance. Somewhat timely, too, perhaps, given the up-coming canonizations of Blessed John Paul II and John XXIII. Lino Rulli, Saint: Why I Should Be Canonized Right Away(Servant Books, 2013).

Seminary Prof critiques Cardinal Kasper on re-marriage and Communion

Always a model of diplomacy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary Professor of Systematic Theology, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, recently wrote a courteously-worded critique of Cardinal Kasper's Feb. 20 address on the family that was subsequently posted under the title of "A Reflection on Cardinal Kasper's Speech on the Family: Theology Professor Detects Problems with Cardinal's Comments on Divorce and Remarriage" (Zenit, March 12, 2014). Please be advised that Dr. Fastiggi goes more than the proverbial "second mile" in diplomacy here, which should help his critique get at least a sympathetic hearing:
ROME, March 12, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D. professor of systematic theology at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI, has shared the following response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s Feb. 20th address to an extraordinary consistory of cardinals. The cardinal’s address focused on the family but his comments on divorced and remarried Catholics caused some controversy. Here Professor Fastiggi examines the speech and aspects which he finds problematic.


Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, gave a two hour address on Feb. 20, 2014 to an extraordinary consistory on the family at the Vatican. In his March 5, 2014 interview with the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis was asked about the Cardinal’s presentation. The Holy Father remarked that Cardinal Kasper had given “a most beautiful and profound presentation” (una bellissima e profonda presentazione). He indicated, though, that section five of the Cardinal’s talk is likely to generate an intense discussion, which we should not fear because it can lead to theological and pastoral growth.

An Italian text of Cardinal Kasper’s address was made available on March 1, 2014 via the on-line Foglio Quotidiano as a Vaticano Esclusivo. In addition to Cardinal Kasper’s address, there was also a critique by Prof. Roberto de Mattei of the European University in Rome. Based on this Italian text, I would like to offer the following comments:

Positive Aspects of the Address

Cardinal Kasper provides a very rich anthropological and biblical synthesis of the theology of marriage. He also takes note of the many challenges facing the Church with regard to the present state of marriage and family life. His address is divided into five parts with two appendices. The five sections are: 1) the family in the order of creation; 2) the structures of sin in the life of the family; 3) the family in the Christian order of redemption; 4) the family as domestic Church; and 5) the problem of the divorced and remarried.

I agree with Pope Francis that there are many beautiful insights about marriage in this presentation, especially in the first four sections. Cardinal Kasper highlights the foundation of marriage in the natural law (section 1); the importance of children (section 2); the family as the fundamental cell of society and a school of the virtues (section 3); the Church’s need for the family and the family’s need for the Church (section 4). In my opinion, these first four sections provide a very beautiful synthesis of the key points of the Catholic theology of marriage.

The fifth section of Cardinal Kasper’s address is the most controversial. In this section he discusses the difficulties faced by Catholics who are divorced and remarried civilly. He affirms the indissolubility of sacramental matrimony and the impossibility of a new marriage while the other spouse is still living. He describes this as “part of the tradition of the binding faith of the Church and it cannot be abandoned or dissolved by an appeal to a superficial comprehension of a cheap type of mercy.” Nevertheless, the Cardinal wonders whether the door might be open to further development regarding the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried without abandoning the binding tradition of the faith. By way of comparison, he mentions how Vatican II was able to develop the Church’s response to the questions of ecumenism and religious freedom without violating traditional doctrine. In this regard, Cardinal Kasper suggests that divorced and remarried Catholics can be allowed to receive Holy Communion in individual cases under certain conditions after an appropriate penance.

Problems with the Address

While Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is very nuanced and measured, his arguments are not free of difficulties. In what follows, I will try to summarize what, in my opinion, are the main problems:

1) The move beyond Church tribunals: Cardinal Kasper states that it is not divine law (iure divino) that cases of the divorced and remarried must only be handled by juridical means. He wonders whether the bishop might not entrust these cases to a priest with pastoral and spiritual experience as a type of penitentiary or episcopal vicar. This evasion, though, of the Church’s juridical process seems to have many potential dangers. If the priest is going to make a declaration of nullity of the prior putative marriage, on what basis can he make this judgment other than through the Church’s canon law? How, though, is an individual priest better able to apply canon law than an ecclesiastical tribunal? If, though, the job of the designated priest is to decide whether or when divorced or remarried couples can be admitted back to Holy Communion on what basis does he make this decision? If he admits them back to the reception of Holy Communion without a firm resolve to remain continent, then it seems that a concession is being given to have sexual relations with someone other than one’s sacramental spouse. This, though, seems like permission to commit adultery, which is contrary to divine law!

2) The need to move from general rules to the consideration of the unique situation of the human person. Cardinal Kasper appeals to Pope Francis’ Jan. 24, 2014 address before the Roman Rota in which the Holy Father emphasized that the pastoral and juridical dimensions should not be placed in opposition. In light of this, Cardinal Kasper points to the spiritual needs of divorced and remarried Catholics. He wonders whether the encouragement for them to receive “spiritual communion” instead of sacramental communion makes any sense in light of the fundamental sacramental structure of the Church. If these divorced and remarried Catholics can make a spiritual communion with Christ in spite of their situation, why can they not receive the sacramental communion of the same Christ? The simple response to the Cardinal’s question is that those who persist in grave sin are not to receive Holy Communion (CIC, canons 915–916). Having conjugal relations with someone other than one’s spouse is a grave or mortal sin because it is adultery. Proper care for the human person can never give way to a permission to sin. If the Church allows divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, this would mean either that marriage is not indissoluble or that adultery is not a mortal sin. As John Paul II writes in Familaris consortio, 84: “If these people [divorced and remarried Catholics] were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.” The rules of the Church are grounded in the teachings of Christ, which are directed to the true good of every individual. There is no contradiction between applying the teachings of Christ and care for the true good of each person. It is no doubt difficult for divorced and remarried Catholics to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. Their hunger for the Eucharist, however, might motivate them to turn to the Church to see if their prior putative marriage was truly valid. Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion would eliminate the need for such an inquiry because the Church could allow them to receive Holy Communion without a declaration of nullity.

3) The ancient Church provides examples of allowing the divorced and remarried to be re-admitted back to ecclesial communion and the Eucharist. Cardinal Kapsar’s historical examples in this regard are open to challenge. His appeal to canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea I (325) is misguided. This canon does not apply to the divorced and remarried. The clemency shown is to the Cathars who were rigorists and had previously refused communion with those who had entered into a second marriage after their first spouse died. As a condition for their return to Catholic communion, the Cathars were required to be in communion with these widows and widowers who had remarried. This is made clear in Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study by George J. Joyce, S.J. (Sheed & Ward, 1933), pp. 581–582. Prof. Roberto de Mattei also cites Fr. Joyce’s book to refute some of the historical examples of Cardinal Kasper. The cases the Cardinal mentions of remarried Catholics being re-admitted back to Holy Communion after doing penance were cases that involved expiation from the sin of the invalid second marriage, which was being abandoned. These were not cases of doing penance that allowed the penitents to continue living in the invalid second marriage. Cardinal Kasper likewise can be challenged for his implication that St. Basil allowed the divorced and remarried to continue living in their unions after doing penance. As Fr. Joyce shows, “St. Basil is simply concerned with the question whether a married man separated from his wife and living with a paramour incurs in all cases the canonical penance for adultery as such” (p. 322). If the man was deserted by his wife and he takes up with a mistress, both he and the mistress can receive a milder penance intended for non-adulterous fornication. This is the indulgence St. Basil allowed—not an indulgence to continue in the non-marital relation! St. Basil’s position is clear in his Ethica, Regula 73, c. 2: “It is not lawful for a man to put away his wife and marry another. Nor is it permitted that a man should marry a wife who has been divorced by her husband” (PG. 32, 730). Other examples cited by Cardinal Kasper are also questionable. His mention of penance as the “second plank after baptism” is taken from Tertullian, De paenitentia 4,2 and cited in the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification (D-H, 1542). He’s correct that penance served in the early Church as the second plank for penitent apostates or the lapsed (lapsi). This, though, assumed that the penitents gave up their sin of apostasy. It was not a penance that allowed them to persist in their sin! A much better assessment of the practice of the early Church toward the divorced and remarried is found in Cardinal Ratzinger’s text, Concerning Some Objections to the Church’s Teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, published as the introduction to Vol. 17 of the series of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled, Documenti e Studi: On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried (Vatican City, 1998). This text—which is now found on the Vatican website in support of the 1994 document of the CDF on this subject—provides a thorough refutation of the types of examples given by Cardinal Kasper. While admitting the possibility of some exceptional cases, Cardinal Ratzinger states: “In the early Church at the time of the Fathers, divorced and remarried members of the faithful were never officially admitted to Holy Communion” (n. 2).

4) The Catholic Church has never rejected the practice of the Eastern Orthodox on allowing divorce and remarriage. Cardinal Kasper makes this claim in his second appendix, and he appeals to the assessment of the Council of Trent on this issue by several scholars. The Council of Trent, however, anathematizes those who “say that the Church is in error for having taught and for still teaching that in accordance with the evangelical and apostolic doctrine [cf. Mt 5:32; 19:9; Mk 10:11f; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:11] the marriage bond cannot be dissolved because of adultery on the part of the spouses and that neither of the two, not even the innocent one who has given no cause for infidelity, can contract another marriage during the lifetime of the other; and that the husband who dismisses an adulterous wife and marries again and the wife who dismisses an adulterous husband and marries again are both guilty of adultery” (D-H, 1807). This condemnation leaves no room for the toleration of the present practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. As Cardinal Ratzinger writes in the text cited above: “On doctrinal grounds, the praxis of the Eastern churches separated from Rome cannot be taken up by the Catholic Church … Furthermore, there is evidence that groups of Orthodox believers who became Catholic had to sign a profession of faith with an explicit reference to the impossibility of a second marriage” (n. 2).

5) Conclusion. Cardinal Kasper is to be commended for the first four sections of his Feb. 20, 2014 address. His fifth section, however, seems to resurrect suggestions that have been presented before and rejected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A far better discussion of the issue can be found in Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s excellent article that appeared in L’Osservatore Romano [Eng. Ed.] of Oct. 23, 2013.

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